Leslie Smith Says She’s Been Released by UFC Following Fight with Aspen Ladd Falling Through

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Leslie Smith weighs in at UFC Atlantic City - though ultimately she is not fighting Aspen Ladd
Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

After trying and failing to negotiate a new deal with the UFC, Leslie Smith says she has been released by the promotion ahead of UFC Atlantic City.

Atlantic City, NJ — One of the more curious subplots here in Atlantic City this week has become the fallout from the Leslie Smith vs. Aspen Ladd bout. It’s a fight that will never happen, now. Ladd missed weight at yesterday’s early weigh-ins, coming in at 137.8lbs. Ladd opted not to take any additional time to hit the bantamweight limit, and next came Smith. Smith stepped on the scales looking like she meant business, waiting for the New Jersey commission to make things official. Then came the waiting game.

From the get-go, the fight seemed up in the air. Smith exited the area (weigh-ins were held at Bally’s Atlantic City), only to return later to speak the commission behind the scenes. The wait continued. Was she working on a new deal, using Ladd’s blown weight cut as leverage? Would she take the fight?

Ultimately, she did not. Ladd eventually released a statement saying she had been willing to forfeit an additional five thousand dollars of her purse, over and above the standard twenty percent, to Smith to make the fight happen.

Smith immediately refuted that claim, however.

Whether Ladd was trying to save face, or the offer was simply never relayed to Smith, remains to be seen. Ladd would later go on to blame “feminine” problems for missing weight, an argument Smith also rejected. However, the story doesn’t stop there. Speaking to MMA Junkie Radio, Smith later said she had been paid her full show and win money for the bout. As the fight had been the last on her current deal, Smith’s tenure with the UFC was finished. She had tried to work out a new contract, originally pushing for $100,000 flat, with the promotion, but later was willing to settle for a simple extension of her current deal.

The UFC, she said, was interested in neither. Since the bout falling through, she has referenced things becoming political — no doubt alluding to her involvement in Project Spearhead, an effort to form either a Fighter’s Association or Union. Smith has been the public face of the project.

The semantics here are going to be crucial. The National Labor Relations Board (the same board Project Spearhead will be looking to to determine whether UFC fighters are employees or independent contractors) notes that “You can’t be fired, disciplined, demoted, or penalized in any way for engaging” in unionization efforts. Yet the UFC didn’t “fire” Smith — it simply paid out her contract, and opted not to renew it.

Had she taken the bout, it could very well have been the the outcome would have been the same. Thanks for coming, we’re no longer interested in your services. Yet appearances are everything, and many are going to read between the lines in this case. It’s going to be a story to follow, one that you likely haven’t heard the last of.

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